Eli Manning of the New York Giants is the most durable quarterback in the National Football League right now and his physical toughness has extended to the team’s mentality, coach Tom Coughlin said.
Manning, 31, has started 129 straight games, including the postseason, dating back to 2004 for the Giants, who play the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl on Feb. 5.
“We have such great trust in him,” Coughlin said of Manning on a media conference call yesterday. “He stands in there and he’ll take the blows, he’ll get right back up, he gets right back in the huddle, he’s the same positive influence on everybody around him.”
Manning threw for a career-high 4,933 yards during the regular season and has helped the Giants to five straight victories, including three in the playoffs. He popped right back up every time he was knocked down in the Giants’ 20-17 overtime win against the San Francisco 49ers, a victory that sent New York back to the Super Bowl for the second time in five seasons.
Manning set franchise postseason records with 58 pass attempts and 32 completions two days ago at rainy Candlestick Park and didn’t turn the ball over even though he was sacked six times and knocked down 12 times by the 49ers.
“He doesn’t get real upset and point the finger or want to know what the deal is,” Coughlin said. “He’s got a real sense of toughness about him and it’s demonstrated by the way in which he plays.”
Manning now has a chance to win his second Super Bowl title, which would be one more than elder brother Peyton. And he can do it with a victory in Indianapolis, the city in which Peyton has spent 14 years with the Colts, winning four NFL Most Valuable Player awards.
“I’ve been proud of Eli all year,” Peyton, 35, told reporters in San Francisco after the NFC championship game. “I’ve really gotten to see more of his games this year because of my injury, so it’s been fun to watch him play. He’s been clutch all season long. Fourth-quarter comebacks. When they’ve needed him, he’s always been there.”
Eli Manning hasn’t missed a snap this season.
With Peyton Manning’s streak of 227 straight starts coming to an end this season following neck surgery, Eli’s run is now the longest by an active NFL quarterback and the third longest in league history. Brett Favre holds the NFL record of 321 consecutive quarterback starts.
Eli Manning also threw 15 fourth-quarter touchdown passes this season, breaking Peyton’s single-season record, and among his six fourth-quarter comebacks was a Nov. 7 win in New England that ended the Patriots’ 20-game home winning streak. It was the last loss this season for the Patriots, who have won their past 10 games and are 15-3 overall.
The Giants rebounded from a four-game losing skid following their win in New England in large part due to Manning, who said he’s focused on what the opportunity in Indianapolis means to the team, not to his legacy. The Giants, who were 7-7 a month ago, enter the Super Bowl with a 12-7 record.
“I’m just thinking about this team and this opportunity and what we’ve overcome and been through,” Manning said. “We kept believing in our team that we could get hot and play our best football. Hopefully, we can continue this momentum.”
Manning four years ago helped the Giants beat New England 17-14 in the Super Bowl with a touchdown pass with 35 seconds left. He now can join the Patriots’ Tom Brady and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger as the only active quarterbacks with multiple Super Bowl victories.
“I’m not saying Eli Manning is better than Tom Brady, but Eli Manning is playing better than Tom Brady since Week 14,” former Super Bowl-winning quarterback Trent Dilfer, now an NFL analyst for ESPN, said on ESPN radio. “He’s playing the best at quarterback of anybody in football. This is as good a quarterback matchup as you’ll find, and Eli Manning has the advantage right now.”